What succulents, like Parry's agave, need and don't need is the subject of Jacqueline A. Soule's newest gardening guide, "Success With Succulents in Southern Arizona."

Succulents have specific requirements in terms of soil, cold exposure and watering regime, but for Jacqueline A. Soule the primary consideration for selecting and planting one needs to be how much attention you want to lavish on your new acquisition.

A high-care plant, in the hands of an indifferent gardener, would soon have a new name: compost.

This from Soule's newest gardening guide, "Success With Succulents in Southern Arizona."

It's a handy 44-page manual that starts with a look at ways people can unintentionally damage or kill the cactus or other succulent.

Who knew, for example, that decorative lights can fool a cactus in harmful ways? Soule offers useful guidelines to help gardeners curb their zeal so that their semi-arid garden can thrive.

She also provides planting instructions, detailing how to acclimate a succulent, tenderized by life in a nursery, so that it can survive among competitors and a more hostile environment.

The handbook includes an extensive list of succulent ailments with diagnostic descriptions and prognoses.

Viruses, fungi, bacteria and insects can infest succulents, often leading to a long, slow death. More insidious, however, is the threat that infected plants can pose to healthy plants nearby.

In particular, many infestations begin during the rainy season, but may not become noticeable until it is too late to curb. Soule offers surgical instructions to salvage succulents.

Animals can also pose a threat to succulents from grazing, most usually during drought.

The final part of the book, the Gallery of Succulents, features an extensive description of plants, listing them alphabetically by group or plant family.

Most useful are Soule's guidelines of minimum temperature tolerances and light requirements for each plant. Most require well-drained soil.

Going far afield, she describes decorative succulents cultivated from Africa and South America.

She also covers plants brought here from sister North American deserts, such as the Chihuahuan and Mojave deserts.

Soule reminds readers that native succulents are protected through the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and that gardeners should only buy plants from reputable sources.

"Success With Succulents in Southern Arizona" is Soule's ninth book. Its publisher, Tierra del Sol Institute, is a nonprofit group dedicated to helping people live in harmony with their environment.

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Buy the book

Jacqueline Soule's book is available for $5 at Rillito Nursery, 6303 N. La Cholla Blvd.; 575-0995.

Weird Plant Sale

• The Tucson Botanical Gardens's once-a-year sale focuses on rare, unusual or downright strange cacti and succulents. A selection of offbeat, locally hand-made pottery is also featured.

• When: 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday for members; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday for the general public.

• Where: Tucson Botanical Garden, 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

• More information: TucsonBotanical.org

Contact Tucson freelance writer Claire Rogers at clairebike@yahoo.com